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Kevlar for the Mind: Tips for the first therapy visit

March 20, 2017 (Photo Credit: Thinkstock/Staff)
Q. My wife recently asked me to see a  therapist for my depression. I fought  her on this for a while but finally  gave in. I’m nervous about going.  What should I expect? Do you have  any tips?

A. The decision to see a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker for mental health concerns is a tough decision for many people. Some service members avoid mental health professionals because they don’t want to burden others with their problems. Some are afraid of being labeled weak or “crazy.” Others believe they will be pressured to take medication, talk about their sexual histories or get bogged down in seemingly senseless
discussions about their childhood.

Like most things in life, preparation makes difficult decisions a little bit easier. Gaining clarity about what mental health treatment is and isn’t can ease anxiety about the process. That’s why, after you take the important step of asking for help, it’s a good idea to come to your first appointment with a list of questions you may have about the therapy process.


Below is a list of potential questions that can help clarify any misconceptions you might have about mental health treatment. The first session will be busy and time will be limited. To make sure your questions are answered, you may want to write them down or save them on your phone to reference when the time comes.

  • How long have you been doing this type of work?
  • What types of things will we do in session?
  • How long will treatment last, and how often will we meet?
  • In what circumstances and with whom can you share information about our work together?
  • What is my diagnosis?
  • How many people have you treated with my same problem?
In addition to psychotherapy, you may be referred to a health care provider for medication. Coming up with a list of questions for this provider is also important. A few you may want to consider:

  • How does the medication work?
  • How long will I need to take the medication?
  • Does the medication have any side effects? If so, what do I do If I experience any?
  • Can you drink alcohol while taking the medication?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose?


Seeking mental health treatment can be a difficult process for some. But, with a little preparation and a few targeted questions, you can become a more
informed consumer and clear the way for a successful venture.

Bret A. Moore, Psy.D., is a board-certified  clinical psychologist who served two tours  in Iraq. Email him at kevlarforthemind@ militarytimes.com. This column is for informational  purposes only and is not intended  to convey specific psychological or medical  guidance.
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